Marriage, Family, and Empire

        I.            Who gets married?

A.      Marriage and legitimacy were marks of status and rank

1.  Thus marriage rates highest for white elites

a.       77% of all Mexcican men of noble rank in colonial period

b.      90% of elite Buenos Aires merchants in late 1700s

c.       83% of elite men and 75% of elite women in Santiago in colonial period

2.  Rates much lower among castas, free blacks, slaves

a.       3.5/1000 in Tucuman (Argentina) in mid 1700s

b.      7.79/1000 for Buenos Aires in same period

c.       17% of adults in Vila Rica (Brazil) in colonial era

d.      Marriage rates dropped during periods of economic hardship

3.  Rural Amerindians had high rates of marriage, similar to white elites

a.       Rural Amerindians more likely to have traditional communities intact, thus established marriage patterns continued

b.      Amerindians in clergy-managed mission communities under strong pressure to marry

B.      Marriage ages

1.  Amerindians generally married younger  than whites

a.       Late teens for Amerindians not unusual

b.      First marriage at around 20 for elite women, around 27 for elite men

2. Women married younger than men

a.       Seven years the average age gap

b.      Differed based on class status

                                                                                                         i.            6-12 years average for elites, 10-15 common

                                                                                                       ii.            Two years for lower classes

      II.            Who gets married to who?

A.      Strong tendency to marry within immediate social group

1.  Particularly true for elites, where preservation  of property was paramount

2.  Young elite women led fairly isolated lives in part to ensure family control over marriage choices

3.  For elite women, marriage heavily tied to production of legitimate children, further limiting marriage choices

4. Despite Church rules, kin marriage up to first cousins not all that unusual for elite whites

B.      Men more likely to marry across racial lines than women

1. Possible because of higher marriage rates among men

2. White women by far the least likely group to marry across racial lines

    III.            The Single Life

A.      Some children of elite families prevented from marrying to keep family inheritances intact

B.      Widows and widowers

1. Widowers usually more common due to high childbirth death rates female average age at death about 30

2. Women who survived childbearing almost always became widows at some point, particularly elite women

3. Widowers usually re-married, particularly for elites

4.  Widows had low rates of re-marriage

a.       More true for elite women remarriage more likely for the young and/or wealthy

b.      Pattern reversed when there was a shortage of elite women, such as in newly founded colonies

C.      Common-law marriages and concubinage

1.  Expense of weddings and general lack of availability too clergy contributed to low marriage rates

2.  Unmarried people living as if married was quite common

a.       Majority of lower class families

b.      Church cracked down on these relations often, but largely tolerated this behavior

                                                                                                         i.             Men, when charged, would be fined

                                                                                                       ii.            Women would be imprisoned

3. Elite men almost universally had mistresses

a.       Contributes to lower marriage rate for women

b.      Priests and Spanish royal officials were not allowed to marry, contributing to concubinage

D.      Illegitimacy rates high

1. 20-50% in places where records are available

2. Rates higher in the cities than in rural areas

3. Rates of abandoned children also grow across the colonial era

E.       Female-headed households

1.  Seem to become more common as colonial period progressed

2.  Women who worked (most non-elites) were often assumed to be engaged in adultery or concubinage, contributing to lower marriage rates

3. More common in peripheral areas and poorer families

4. Single mothers had fewer children (about half as many as married women)

    IV.            All in the Family

A.      Colonial families strongly patriarchal

1.  Husbands legal right over wives similar to their rights over children

2.  This included rights over property and right to punish

3.  Elite women led highly restricted lives, finding main public outlet in religious activities

4. Some evidence that lower class women preferred common-law arrangements because of greater independence offered

B.      Separation

1.  Church generally frowned on married couples living apart, based on assumption that adultery would inevitable follow

2. Strongly patriarchal families contributed to la mala vida (abuse)

3. No divorce, but Church would allow some legal separations

a.       Almost always asked for by women

b.      When granted, usually because of  la mala vida or spiritual or moral danger (husband engaged in witchcraft or highly immoral behavior)

c.       Still legally married, and neither allowed to remarry